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Land Use Explorers Kits to Inspire Place-Based Science Exploration

VERMILLION, S.D. – The University of South Dakota, through a research and outreach collaboration with Montana State University and the University of Wyoming, has created the “Land Use Explorers” kit to teach elementary and middle school students about the land where they live. The kits are available free of charge to youth-serving organizations in South Dakota through June 21.

The kits are designed to encourage youth of ages nine through 13 to learn about and explore the land where they live and play. The kits were created as part of a National Science Foundation supported research project called Water-Agriculture-Food-Energy Research Nexus (WAFERx).

Each kit includes a 40-page, full-color book with lessons on how the production of food, water and energy are connected to the animals, plants and humans who live on the land. The kit further includes profiles of the scientists and engineers who are part of the WAFERx project as well as an activity on citizen science for youth to carry out on their own. Each kit comes in a zippered pouch that includes a magnifying glass, observation journal and colored pencils.

“The Land Use Explorer kits are a great opportunity to expose young people to science through a range of different types of activities such as citizen science including the NASA-developed GLOBE Observer app,” said Meghann Jarchow, chair and associate professor of the USD Department of Sustainability & Environment and co-principal investigator on the WAFERx project.

The kits are free of charge to organizations that can use them with youth this summer and provide a short feedback report to the researchers. Preference will go to organizations that are serving youth typically underrepresented in STEM, such as girls, minorities, youth with disabilities or youth in rural areas. The kits can be used by youth gathering in groups or learning remotely; however, only organizations—not individuals—may apply for the kits at this time.

The deadline to apply for Land Use Explorers kits is June 21. For more information or to apply, visit or contact Suzi Taylor with the MSU Science Math Resource Center at


USD's College of Arts & Sciences offers students a top-notch undergraduate liberal arts education in the humanities, social sciences and sciences as well as graduate programs that have earned USD distinction as a research university by the Carnegie Foundation. The college's more than 22,000 alumni include famous journalists, Hollywood screenwriters, novelists, a Nobel Prize winner, South Dakota governors, attorneys, physicians, justices of the state Supreme Court, distinguished university faculty and international humanitarians.


Founded in 1862 and the first university in the Dakotas, the University of South Dakota is the only public liberal arts university in the state, with 202 undergraduate and 84 graduate programs in the College of Arts & Sciences, School of Education, Knudson School of Law, Sanford School of Medicine, School of Health Sciences, Beacom School of Business and College of Fine Arts. With an enrollment of nearly 10,000 students and more than 400 faculty, USD has a 16:1 student/faculty ratio, and it ranks among the best in academics and affordability. USD’s 18 athletic programs compete at the NCAA Division I level.


Hanna DeLange
USD News